'Green collar' skills gap to hit manufacturing sector

The rising demand for green collar working in manufacturing will place pressure on the domestic skills market and leave businesses without the engineering and environmental expertise they require, according to new research from engineering and environment consultancy, Royal Haskoning.

The survey of manufacturing business leaders in Britain revealed that growing pressure to be green from Government and consumers has led to a huge increase in the need for green collar skills and services, with over a third (36%) of respondents concerned about their companys future ability to satisfy its green collar needs.(i)

The survey, conducted by ICM research on behalf of Royal Haskoning, revealed that demand for green collar workers the term used to describe those that work in environmental-related roles or industries will increase dramatically over the next 12 months. Over half (55%) of manufacturing businesses predict their companys need for green collar skills and services will increase in the future, and two in five (42%) believe their workforce would need to increase by as much as 6-10%. The findings echo the views of the Government, which recently outlined its framework for the future of British manufacturing, with business secretary, John Hutton, claiming that one million green collar jobs could be created in low-carbon technology.(ii)  Elsewhere, the Home Offices migration advisory committee has called for an overall drop in the number of skilled jobs open to non-EU migrants in Britain from 1 million to 700,000; engineering remains an area of shortage.(iii)

The shift in skill requirements for the manufacturing industry is already underway and will continue to grow at a rapid rate, with nearly a third (30%) of those surveyed already employing someone with green collar responsibilities. Of those that dont currently employ green collar workers, almost half (41%) believed their company soon planned to make use of green collar skills services and products, with nearly a third (30%) hoping to do so in the next six to 12 months.

A growing eco consciousness and increased regulatory scrutiny means manufacturing businesses are feeling pressure from all directions to be green. According to respondents, the top reason for an increased need in green collar skills and services was the need to meet customer pressure to be green (35%), followed by Government and legislative sustainability targets and criteria (26%), and internal environment policy targets (23%). 

As a country we are steadily recognising the need for green products, services and skills, but companies are failing to take action. Our research found that one in four (23%) manufacturing companies didnt have an environmental policy in place, and of those companies, a further third (30%) admit there are no plans to implement one, commented Henry Rowe, member of the Royal Haskoning board of management. As pressure mounts for British businesses to implement green strategies and services, the worry remains whether our current and future domestic skills market can service these demands. We need to encourage the take up of science and engineering degrees and create an environment that fosters home-grown talent in order to ensure Britain benefits, and not suffers from, the forthcoming green collar boom.

About the research

(i)                  ICM interviewed a random sample of 575 senior level professionals, of which 56 work in the manufacturing industry, in an ad hoc online study on behalf of Royal Haskoning in August 2008.  Surveys were conducted across the country in the professional and business services, catering and accommodation, wholesale, manufacturing, health and social service, education, personal services, arts, sport and recreation, agriculture, construction, mining, energy and utilities, transport, IT and telecoms and media industries from businesses across the UK. All figures quoted in this release have been derived from the manufacturing sample of respondents. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Further information at: http://www.icmresearch.co.uk

(ii)                Further information can be found at: http://www.berr.gov.uk/sectors/manufacturing/strategyreview2008/page45271.html

(iii)               Further information can be found at: http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk/press-releases/jobs-migrant-workers


About Royal Haskoning

Royal Haskoning is an engineering and environmental consultancy with 4,300 employees, operating worldwide. Headquartered in the Netherlands, it provides a range of consulting services to both public and private organisations focusing on the sustainable interaction between people and their environment. Its specialist areas include infrastructure & buildings, marine, coastal & river developments, transport & planning, as well as the environment.

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